- Posted January 17, 2014 by
Cuban art appreciation remains constant despite country’s changes
Spoken in Spanish with a smooth Cuban drawl and a the smoke of his cigar swirling up into the afternoon Havana sky, artist Salvador Gonzáles Escalona describes the relationship between the capital city and its art. A native Cuban, Escalona specializes in an “Afro-Cuban” style displayed in his paintings, murals and sculptures.
“Afro-Cuban culture has many refinements within popular religion which makes is beautiful and strong,” he said. “A bastion of the African influence in the Caribbean.”
Escalona is not the only artist striving to preserve the soul of Cuban art. The Office of the Historian employs nine artists who restore easel paintings from the Office as well as other institutions solicited through it. The artists primarily use bee’s wax to fill in a painting’s missing areas since it has a resistance to humidity and is abundant in Cuba.
“Pieces usually arrive in a very bad state and we work to restore them so we may appraise them, as they were originally,” said restoration artist Leandro Grillo Rodriguez. The shop was founded in 1995 and its first project was the restoration of the Vermay Collection, pieces painted by French artist Juan Bautista Vermay. Today the majority of the paintings come from Cuba, mainly from museums in Havana.
Cuba’s art scene doesn’t stop past the beautiful works of graffiti and wall paintings of Havana, though. Viñales Valley is located roughly three hours outside Havana and besides being known for its beautiful landscapes and a prime tobacco-growing environment, the area hosts its own work of art.
Leovigildo González Morillo, former Director of Mapping at the Cuban Academy of Sciences, painted the Viñales Mural de la Prehistoria in 1961. Displaying mollusks to dinosaurs to human beings, the 120-meter painting depicts the history of the human race.
“The size of the mural was extraordinary,” said Elon University graduate student Brenna Mickey who recently traveled to Cuba. “I was amazed at the time and effort it must have taken to complete.”
Interviews and photos were collected by eight graduate students and one professor from Elon University’s Interactive Media program who traveled to Cuba in January 2014 to document the efforts of Havana’s restoration initiative.